Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jana's Spring Garden Soup

Greens are becoming readily available at farmer’s markets, supermarkets, and maybe even in your own garden or patio box. If you have dandelions popping up in your yard, here is a recipe that makes great use of them. Why just pull weeds when you can pull and eat them? (Presuming, of course, that you don’t spray them with herbicides.)

I made this recipe exactly as it appears in How it all Vegan!: irresistible recipes for an animal-free diet, by Tanya Barnard & Sarah Kramer. Recipe commentary follows.

Jana’s Spring Garden Soup
Get outside, plant a garden, and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

8 cups water
2 cups each of as many of the following fresh greens:
Collard greens, sliced into strips
Kale, roughly chopped
Mustard greens, roughly chopped
Swiss chard, roughly chopped
1/4 cup dandelion greens, roughly chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
3 stalks green onions, chopped
Sprig of fresh fennel
2 cups medium tofu, cubed
1 tsp Braggs OR soy sauce
1/4 cup miso

In a large soup pot, bring the water to boil. Add the greens, dandelions, carrots, onions, and fennel and simmer for 20-30 minutes on medium heat. Stir in the tofu, Braggs, and miso and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Makes 4-6 servings.

The greens, before cooking
First, I didn’t have, and couldn’t find, nettles, so I simply didn’t use them. Secondly, I couldn’t bring myself to pay $5/bunch for mustard greens, so I substituted radish greens instead. They added a nice little peppery flavor without being overwhelming. Dandelion greens were also $5 per bunch, and since I only needed 1/4 cup of them, I went outside picked my own. God knows there are plenty to be found. You could add pretty much any greens to this recipe – beet greens, kohlrabi greens, arugula, Romaine, spinach, even throw in some cilantro or parsley.


I didn’t de-vein anything. The chard stems cook up without being stringy and add color, anyway; and I let the whole thing simmer long enough that the kale veins just added texture. Use your judgment, of course – if your kale has huge, heavy veins, you might want to strip it.

One teaspoon of Braggs? I had to look twice. One teaspoon for eight cups of water hardly seems enough; I think perhaps it should have read 1 tablespoon; but I used white miso which is mild and maybe that made the difference. By the way, do make sure you add the miso after removing the soup from the heat – miso should not be boiled; it loses its aroma and its nutrients.

The recipe as written made a nice but very, very understated soup. And by understated, what I really mean is that it might be too flavorless for some people. Yet, I really love the idea of all those greens! So here are two variations I propose to make this soup Really Quite Tasty:

Variation 1: “When Life Dills you Lemons”: In the final stages of cooking, add 1 TBS lemon juice, and 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of dried dill. Better yet, use fresh dill to your liking. Add more Braggs and a grind of white pepper.

Variation 2: “More Cowbell Miso”: While simmering the greens, add a large strip of kombu (remove on serving). In the final stages, add more Braggs and toss in a total of 1-2 tablespoons of dulse.

Eat your greens. Enjoy spring!

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